HEAVEN AND BACK TO EARTH AGAIN IN THE 2019 ABSA CAPE EPIC

Eight days, 624km and 16 650m of climbing await riders next March.

Land Rover is Official Vehicle and Route Partner for the world’s toughest MTB race

From the iconic slopes of Table Mountain’s National Park – to the craggy shoreline of the Southern Coast. And on; traversing the famous Winelands and beyond into the high mountains of the Western Cape. The 2019 Absa Cape Epic route – proudly brought to you by Land Rover, the Official Vehicle and Route Partner – challenges, rewards and offers spectators the most revealing view of the Untamed African MTB Race yet. 

Eight days, 624km and 16 650 meters of climbing – the bare statistics tell less than half the story. Rugged mountain trails, bone jarring dual tracks, windswept gravel roads and, yes, sand lie between the Prologue at the University of Cape Town and the Grand Finale at Val de Vie Estate. This is a reflection of modern Africa, where urbanisation spreads to the edge of wilderness – where riders will roll out of celebrated towns, straight into the hinterland where heaven and hades are the opposite sides of the same coin. 

In 2019 three stages battle for the honour of being dubbed the Queen Stage. The remaining days are anything but easy however; true to form even the shorter stages pack a significant punch. Take the Stage 4 time trial for example, it is filled with Elgin’s best loved singletracks but each is linked to the next by a ferociously steep climb. 

This will be an Absa Cape Epic where form, mental and mechanical preparation are rewarded. An Epic where each weakness will be magnified and luck will need to be made. For general classification contenders and riders seeking to challenge their own preconceived limits alike. It will be a race to remember… 


Prologue 

Sunday, 17 March

Distance: 21km

Climbing: 600m

Start Location: University of Cape Town

Finish Location: University of Cape Town

Rating: 2.5 stars 

The Grand Depart

In 2019 Cape Town’s most iconic landmark plays host, for the fifth time, to the inaugural stage of the Absa Cape Epic. The Prologue is more than just a scene setter though; it will provide the first shake-up of the general classification and hints of who has prepared best for the herculean task at hand. At 21km long, with 600 meters of climbing, it takes in the now infamous “climb which cannot be named in print” grind up to the cauldron of spectators gathered around Dead Man’s Tree and the scenic vistas of Table Mountain Road, all forming part of Table Mountain National park. The first section of Land Rover Technical Terrain of the race is located on the Plum Pudding singletrack which tests bravery and skill in equal measures. Expect the UCI men’s and women’s teams to blitz the course and the time gaps to be calculated in seconds. But know that further down the field, surviving the Prologue unscathed should be the aim for the day – the Absa Cape Epic really begins on Monday in Hermanus. 


Stage 1

Monday, 18 March

Distance: 112km

Climbing: 2 700m

Start Location: Hermanus

Finish Location: Hermanus

Rating: 4 stars

Heaven and Back to Earth

Relentless. Attritional. A return to the Absa Cape Epic Stage 1s of old and the Hemel en Aarde Valley. Rotary Drive, the La Vierge stairs and the Paddocks set the tone for a day of relentless ascents before the day’s first spectator point at Creation Wines. Then it is onwards and upwards towards the Dimension Data Hotspot near the summit of the Katkloof Climb. Baked by the summer sun it will be littered with loose pebbles, clinging precariously to a shifting sand surface. In the wheat fields of Overberg, rolling roads provide momentary respite before the war of attrition resumes on the slopes of the Babilonstoring Mountains, then descending into the Tesselaarsdal Valley – where in 2017 many an Epic dream was dashed. Turning for Hermanus and home it is downhill in theory – but reality and Charley’s Babe have other ideas. The Gorge, in the final 15km provides the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain and one of the most exhilarating approaches to an Absa Cape Epic finish line yet. There is still one final sting in the tail though – the Water Works climb, designed to bring a tear to eye of those who failed to prepare. 


Stage 2

Tuesday, 19 March

Distance: 86km

Climbing: 2 250m

Start Location: Hermanus

Finish Location: Oak Valley

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Enter Sandman

A teaspoon of cement is in order for the first move day of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic, as it packs challenge after challenge into its relatively brief 86km. Tyre choice and pressure are sure to be decisive on Stage 2 where 10 arduous kilometres within the first half of the day could prove definitive. The stage starts with an ascent of Rotary Drive before crossing out of the Hemel en Aarde Valley to the west – into the sandman’s playground. Dubbed “The Machine”, for the mysterious landowner known only by that moniker, it provides a steep ascent followed by the day’s Land Rover Technical Terrain – a rollercoaster ride along a trail carved out by motocross bikes. The key point of the stage is a brand new singletrack cut into the Hottentots Holland Mountains by Wildekrans’ Braam Gericke. This 6km-long climb gains over 500 meters in elevation and has been named the Wildekrans Tokoloshe.

Stage 3

Wednesday, 20 March

Distance: 103km

Climbing: 2 800m

Start Location: Oak Valley 

Finish Location: Oak Valley

Rating: 4.5 Stars

The Emerald Princess 

No Absa Cape Epic sojourn in Elgin would be complete without an assault on Groenlandberg. But in 2019 the famed emerald mountain, though the highest point of the route, does not earn the honour of being titled the Queen Stage. Overshadowed, slightly, by Stage 5 it still provides a stern test. The day kicks off with the ascent of the Nuweberg, followed by the Groenlandberg herself. For the elite riders crossing the highest point in the race, at 1 100 meters above sea level, first will yield a cash prize for the Dimension Data Hotspot award. A white-knuckle descent follows, then it’s upwards again on the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain climb to Die Nek. In the Egin Valley, far below, a mix of rocky singletrack, concentration demanding dual track and two more infamous climbs await. There are riding rewards on offer too, following the last significant climb of the day, on the initially rocky but always thrilling Lebanon trails. Then the trail home follows the easiest possible route and includes flowing singletrack through cattle filled pastures – not a bad way to end the day with the second largest accumulated altitude gain in the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. 


Stage 4

Thursday, 21 March

Distance: 43km

Climbing: 1 000m

Start Location: Oak Valley

Finish Location: Oak Valley

Rating: 3 Stars


Just Like Clockwork

After three marathon stages the 2019 Absa Cape Epic route provides some relief in terms of distance, but the singletrack filled race against the clock will certainly not ease up on the difficulty. The allure is rather one of a shorter day in the saddle with more recovery time. Taking in the best of Oak Valley and Paul Cluver’s plethora of world class trails, but linking them with savage climbs the mid-race time trial provides a test of power, speed and concentration. Trails like Pine Singles, Tranquillity, Nürburgring, Mamba, Vissie’s Magic, Sounds of Silence, Wonderland and the Greenhouse Effect, are linked by climbs like Tierkop, Ma se Gat, Berg Adder, Puff Adder along with a 350 meter long beast. For the fans the time trial provides the perfect vantage point at the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre. The route forms an irregular figure of eight, crossing over at the Paul Cluver Bike Park. This provides spectators with the chance to see their favourite riders at kilometres 6 and 20 without having to move locations. 


Stage 5

Friday, 22 March

Distance: 100km

Climbing: 2 850m

Start Location: Oak Valley

Finish Location: Stellenbosch

Rating: 5 Stars

Newton’s Queen

Overcoming gravity and fighting to maintain momentum are the orders of the day on the Queen Stage of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic. Though similar statistically to Stage 3, in reality Stage 5 is by a considerable distance the toughest stage of the race. Rugged terrain and brutally steep climbs ensure it has the topography to prove decisive in the battles to be crowned Kings and Queens of the Absa Cape Epic. Out of Oak Valley the Nuweberg sets the scene for a challenging day, before the A to Z trails lead riders to the summit of the Gantouw Pass. While portaging down, heed the wagon wheel scars cut in the stone and acknowledge how easy life has become since those pioneers hauled ox wagons over the mountains. At the foot of the pass the hidden Lourensford Valley provides the chance for on-the-bike recovery before the toughest climb of the race. Snaking its way up the Helderberg, King’s Climb could work its way into Epic folklore in a single outing. At the summit the Dimension Data Hotspot awaits, followed by the Land Rover Technical Terrain – down the scintillating Helderberg Trails singletrack. Four sapping vineyard climbs separate Helderberg Farm from Stellenbosch, but the Dornier and Mont Marie trails provide respite in between; before G-Spot caps a day well spent in the mountains. 

Stage 6

Saturday, 23 March

Distance: 89km

Climbing: 2 650m

Start Location: Stellenbosch 

Finish Location: Stellenbosch 

Rating: 4 Stars 

Death, Taxes, Singletracks & Vineyard Climbs

The old saying goes that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. When mountain biking in Stellenbosch another two can be added: singletracks and vineyard climbs. Play day, or earn the right to play day; Stage 6 of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic starts with Heart Break Hill inside the first kilometre. Then it is onwards and upwards, because Botmaskop needs to be conquered in order to earn the right to swoop down Skyfall. No circumnavigation of the Banhoek Valley is complete without Nik Naks, a technical climb and descent. The climb to Tokara on the Simonsberg follows, before descending into Rustenberg Wines. An inexorable grind with a name stolen from the singletrack at its summit – Never-Say-Neverender – traverses Rustenberg, Quoin Rock, Delvera, and Uitkyk where after the Simonsberg Trails reward with singletrack descents. Across the valley Klapmuts Kop and the stage’s Land Rover Technical Terrain awaits, on a rocky but flowing switchback descent. The route back to Stellenbosch takes a lower line but still requires climbing all the way back to Botmaskop, where the final thrill of the day is provided by the revitalised World Cup Downhill track from the late nineties. 


Stage 7

Sunday, 24 March

Distance: 70km

Climbing: 1 800m

Start Location: Stellenbosch

Finish Location: Val de Vie

Rating: 3.5 Stars

The Grand Finale

No procession through the Winelands, the final stage of the 2019 Absa Cape Epic still provides opportunities for general classification shake-ups. From Stellenbosch to Jonkershoek the asphalt road surface provides a deceptive lull, but do not be fooled once in the reserve the typical Absa Cape Epic terrain resumes with vengeance. A dual track climb thins the field for Bosluis. Then it is across the valley to climb Never Ending Story. The best of Jonkers is showcased by Bennet’s Red and the Land Rover Technical Terrain: Armageddon. From the valley floor the only way is up, on Fiona’s Beast, beyond a fairytale castle to Botmaskop and through the culvert to the slopes of the Simonsberg. Vuurberg’s dirt jumps, which the route weaves between, lead to Boschendal’s Inferno and Sugar Bowl trails. One final climb and a brand-new section of singletrack ensures riders will enter Val de Vie Estate, the Champs-Elysées of the Absa Cape Epic, with a smile, but in need of those last few – mercifully flat – kilometres to gain their composure. Emotions are sure to spill over still; rolling across the finish line – as a 2019 Absa Cape Epic finisher. 

Follow the Land Rover team on social media using the #UnstoppableSpirit and #Untamed hashtags, and at @LandRoverZA.

Land Rover Dream Team’s set for Absa Cape Epic 2019

Land Rover has announced its star-studded entry list for the 2019 Absa Cape Epic – the world’s toughest eight-day mountain bike race held annually in the Western Cape. 

Leading the charge when the team of 12 line up at the start on 17 March will be the husband and wife pairing of Martin and Jeannie Dreyer. Martin is a seven-time Dusi marathon champion, corporate adventure guide and motivational speaker, while Jeannie has multiple mountain biking titles to her name including The Munga, Wines2Wales, 36ONE MTB Challenge, Hill2Hill, Tour de Krantz and the Tankwa Trek. 

The two adventure athletes met on the Land Rover-sponsored G4 Challenge in 2007 and will be a force in the Mixed Category for male/female teams. Together the pair have completed 11 Epics. 

Another potent duo will be the Women’s pairing of Hannele Steyn and Anneke Whelan. Hannele is one of only four riders in the world to have completed all 15 previous Epics, and the is the only woman to have done so – earning her the title of Last Lioness. This year, for her 16th attempt, Steyn is partnered with Whelan who’s entered for the second time. Anneke’s a lawyer by day, but enjoys mountain biking as her main hobby outside of her firm. 

Last Lion Mike Nixon has also completed all 15 past Epics, and for the 2019 edition will line up alongside plastic surgeon Shane Barker in the Grand Masters class. Adventurist Nixon has reached all seven summits including Mount Everest and travels with humanitarian hero Kingsley Holgate on various Land Rover expeditions delivering aid across all of Africa. 

Capetonian Barker, an adventurist in his own right, has completed four Otter Trail runs and enjoys surfing, waterskiing, paddling and kite boarding when he’s not performing cosmetic and reconstructive nips and tucks on his clientele. This will be Shane’s fourth Absa Cape Epic. 

Adventure sports specialists Clinton Mackintosh and Mark Collins will compete together in the Masters category. Clinton, contesting his seventh Epic, developed his pedal power as an elite road cyclist but switched to adventure racing almost ten years ago. His teammate, Collins, is an Absa Cape Epic rookie, but comes armed with experience from expedition racing, climbing, canoeing, trail running and kayaking. 

As usual Land Rover has unified the sports of mountain biking and rugby, with two teams featuring professional rugby players – one retired and one at the top of his game. 

John Smit has swopped studded boots for clip-in cleats and for 2019 will partner businessman and Cape Epic regular Shane Chorley. The former rugby player, who led the Springboks to victory in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, will ride in his fifth Epic next year. Shane might be a business executive by day, but can be considered an Absa Cape Epic veteran with eight completions under his belt. 

Frenchman Freddie Michalak has been recruited for the second rugby-based Land Rover team in which he’ll ride alongside his South African buddy Jesse Wilson. Freddie, full name Frédéric, once played for the Sharks in South Africa but currently plays for Lyon OU in the Top 14. The Epic rookie is an ambassador for Land Rover France. 

Michalak will pair up with his South African friend Jesse Wilson, who has two Absa Cape Epics to his name. Wilson is an adventure sports enthusiast and Ironman triathlete. 

The 16th edition of the Absa Cape Epic will start on 17 March, 2019 and finish eight days later after a grueling journey through the Western Cape landscape. The race format requires two-person teams to remain within two minutes of each other at all times to prevent time penalties, and the field is limited to a maximum 650 teams. 

Event organisers will make a route announcement on 26 September, 2018 with more detail about the expected challenges, total race distance and accumulated climb. 

Follow the Land Rover team on social media using the #UnstoppableSpirit and #Untamed hashtags, and at @LandRoverZA.

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